CHARLOTTE, N.C., Nov. 17 (UPI) -- A truck driver died in Kentucky due decreased visibility from smoke as dozens of wildfires in the southeastern United States rage, local officials said.
Kentucky State Police Trooper Scott Ferrell said the driver exited his truck to check on a driver whose vehicle hit his truck in Powell County's Mountain Parkway. The truck driver was struck by a third vehicle, and a chain reaction of collisions involving about 15 vehicles occurred -- shutting down the road for nearly 10 hours.
More than 30 wildfires throughout the southeast in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia have burned more than 80,000 acres of land.
In Pickens County, S.C., emergency officials asked dozens of families to evacuate the area due to the 3,283-acre Pinnacle fire. Firefighters were expected to conduct a burnout operation Thursday, which South Carolina Forestry Commission spokesman Russell Hubright said "will put a tremendous amount of additional smoke in the air."
Environmental officials in the region have sent health alerts warning residents of increased levels of particulate matter in the air. In Chattanooga, Tenn., more than 200 patients have been hospitalized since Friday for shortness of breath and respiratory difficulties related to the wildfires.
A U.S. Forest Service spokesman this week said "dry weather, high winds and the continuing drought is driving the large growth of fires," adding that the number of fires spread over several states are depleting the resources of agencies.
Some school systems, including in South Carolina's Greenville County and North Carolina's Haywood County, are limiting outdoor activity for students.